Best Practices for UI Web Design

User Interface or UI design is a process designers use to build interfaces in software based on looks, style and aesthetic. The goal of UI design is to create an interface that users find practical and enjoyable to use. Since UI is responsible for the material’s overall effectiveness and accessibility, it can make or break a user’s experience. It is of utmost importance that creators familiarize themselves with UI design as it is the product customers, employees etc. will be interacting with.

Oftentimes, people confuse UI with UX (user experience). However, UI primarily focuses on individual aspects of the interface that make it easy to use. UX focuses on the user’s experience with the product as a whole. It is essential that UI contains four elements for successful design- containers, input controls, navigational elements and informational components. Below is a breakdown of these elements.

  • Containers: Containers serve to organize content in an easily legible and digestible form. For example, rather than putting every image on top of each other, you can create different containers for each image.
  • Input Controls: Input controls are on-page components that allow users to input information. Input controls include text fields, buttons and checkboxes.
  • Navigational Elements: Navigational elements allow for users to navigate their way around an interface. This includes things such as back arrows, slide bars and search fields.
  • Informational Components: Informational components are used to present information to the visitor. For example, a progress bar below a video or questionnaire would be considered an informational component.

There are three main types of UI design. The first being Graphical User Interface (GUI), Voice User Interface (VUI) and Menu-driven interface. Graphical user interface allows the users to interact with a device through graphical icons. Usually, interactions are done through the use of a mouse, trackpad or point-and-click tool. A smartphone’s homescreen is an example of graphical user interface.

Voice user interface uses syntax and words as the crux of this design. Voice user interface implements speech recognition to decipher voice commands. Examples of VUI include Google Home’s “hey, google”, iPhone’s “hey, Siri” and Amazon’s Alexa.

A Menu-driven interface provides its users with command options via a menu or list. The commands can be present in full screen or can be drop-down or pop-up. The most common examples of menu-driven interfaces are digital parking meters or ATMs.

Now, the basics have been covered and have given a better understanding of what exactly UI is and how it provides a pleasurable experience for the user. But how exactly do you create a simplistic interface? Here are some tips for creating a seamless user experience. Since seamless presentation is important in design, most UI goes unrecognized. Consistency, simplicity and useability are the most important aspects of UI. First, it is important to format the content to fit the intended screen it will be used on. Make it easy on the user, they should not have to turn their device horizontally or zoom and scroll to use the interface. Make sure there is enough contrast between the background of the design and the text for easy legibility. Ensure that buttons and images are aligned as well as text. Alignment helps demonstrate relativity to users. High image resolutions are a requirement for any interface. Whether the user is on a large screen, small screen or in portrait/landscape mode, make sure the design is responsive on all fronts. Everything should be easily readable and usable.

When thinking of the key principles of interface design, remember the four C’s: control, consistency, comfortability and cognitive load.

  • Control: The interface should always be controlled by the user.
  • Consistency: Use predictable and common elements that are easy to navigate to accommodate for unfamiliar users.
  • Comfortability: Interacting with the interface should be easy and comfortable for the user.
  • Cognitive load: Do not overload the user with content. Be aware of the amount of content and be as clear and concise as possible.

Accessibility of the interface is another essential element. To successfully complete the four C’s, each of the components need to apply to all users equally. Users with disabilities, such as low vision, should be able to navigate the interface without issue. Many individuals use screen readers or accessibility tools; it is important that the interface adapts to work with these tools. Settings for these corresponding tools should be easy to access. A good way to ensure that an interface is fully accessible is to ask a wide range of people to test it out and give constructive feedback.

Next, using the right design tools can greatly affect the outcome of your interface. Consider using mockup sites such as Adobe XD, Visily, Figma, Fluid UI and InVision to name a few. These websites provide mockup tools and materials needed to create an interface. Visily is a mockup tool powered by AI that is built for non-designers. Figma is a browser based mockup website that has fast design and prototyping capabilities. Adobe is a versatile design tool that encompasses tools compatible with Windows and Mac; an excellent design tool for beginners. There are online courses beginners can take to learn how to use design tools and navigate each website.

Mockups are designs of a webpage that features design elements but is not actually functional. A mockup is not as put together as a live page, it usually includes placeholder data. It is essentially a blueprint for what will be a functional interface. Mockups serve as a draft for the interface. It is a crucial step in creating an interface as it brings life into the concept and ideas. This allows the creator to test out ideas and see how everything will come together visually. It also provides stakeholders with the ability to see what the interface will look like and allows them to give feedback.

Mockups are the preceding step to prototypes of an interface. Prototypes are simulations of what a live interface will be. While mockups are not functional, prototypes are and allow for an almost real user experience. The same websites and tools used to create mockups can be used to create a prototype. The next step after creating a prototype is to test out the interface. When creating a prototype it is important to keep a few things in mind. The goals of the project, understanding the function and purpose is essential. Think of the competitive products people currently use, a competitive analysis will give an idea of how well your interface will do in the marketplace. Who is the intended user and what are their goals? Understanding the target demographics allows you to create a better interface.

Arguably the most important part of creating an interface prototype is testing it out and getting real world criticism from potential users. Testing an interface detects any usability problems. This process could potentially be the longest and most painstaking part of creating an interface. It is critical to the success of the UI to work out the kinks and revise according to user feedback before launching the interface. Again, the interface needs to be easily accessible and useable for everyone. Testing will ensure that the interface accomplishes that.

Start prototype testing by knowing exactly what you are testing. Be clear with your intentions, do not simply state you want to test a prototype. Make sure to choose the right audience to test out the interface. Ensure that you choose a usability testing method. For example, will it be moderated or unmoderated? Will you be able to test the interface remotely? Lastly, make sure to give users a clear objective. Set a clear task for the user to achieve and pick the right questions to ask users.

In summary, UI is supposed to be approachable and easy to use. The point of UI is for anyone to be able to use said interface. It should be organized and not overwhelming for the user. Remember, UI and UX are not the same. UI refers to the tools and design on the interface, whereas UX refers to the interaction the user has with the interface as a whole including how they feel about it. If you get overwhelmed, remember the four core components of UI design; containers, input controls, navigational elements and informational components.

Accessibility is of utmost importance. Anyone, even the visually impaired, should be able to easily access and use the interface. In addition, integrate the four C’s into the interface; control, consistency, comfortability and cognitive load. Tools such as Adobe XD, Visily and Figma are excellent mockup sites and can also be used to create an interface prototype. Choosing the right mockup tool is equally as important as knowing the best practices for UI design. Testing the prototype is an essential step in creating a successful interface. This step allows you to create a more user friendly interface as well as save you money. Keep in mind, the overall experience the user has with the interface can make or break your design.

These are some of the best practices to apply when it comes to UI web design. Although it seems daunting, creating a strong User Interface in web design is fully achievable. These tools and fundamentals are sure to aid in the formation of a successful UI design.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.